I know. If you are anything like me, and most divorced women with children, you’re feeling defensive right off the bat. I had a list of qualms with the idea of an imaginary woman coming into my kids lives. I thought about her being mean, or messy, or not taking care of them the way I want. Attitude is everything, ladies. Instead of bringing down someone you don’t know yet, or making them feel uncomfortable in some weird, territorial way- stop to think if she is really so threatening.
I should specify that these reasons came to light for me as an adult divorcee with kids. If you have an ex-husband with whom you do not share a parenting relationship, I am sure that you don’t care much one way or the other if he dies alone, attached to his XBOX controller eating cereal for every meal. When there are kids, though, his life is their life, and therefore, it affects you.
There are a number of reasons why your ex finding someone new works in your favor.
- There is someone else there to pick them up from school, wipe their runny noses, make them dinner, and do their baths. We can all agree- it is a lot to expect from one person, and it is only going to make things better for the kids to have a willing adult in the picture, helping them out on their days with dad.
- If your ex is lonely, unhappy, and overwhelmed being a single dad, how are you winning? Kids are perceptive, and they have a lot of empathy. If dad is upset, the kids are upset. In turn, if your ex is loved, happy, and has help, your kids will be in a good place at dad’s house.
- I read a post recently that referred to the stepmom as a “bonus mom”. This is so refreshing, and I found it to be very true. They will always have you- you are mom. But at dad’s, aren’t you glad to have a female figure there? Someone offering a female perspective, softness, or comfort that he just can’t should calm you instead of infuriate you.
- Stepparents have it rough. I would go as far as to say that they have it harder than we do as the birth parents. Breathe it in. They have to wrestle with the never-ending argument of, “You’re not my mom! You can’t tell me what to do!” and always being a little bit on the outside, no matter how long they have been an integral part of your kids’ lives. Damn, get that girl a Christmas gift! It takes a special breed to fall in love with a man who has kids and love them as your own. Not everyone is able or willing to do that. She has graced you. She might have a conservative upbringing that you didn’t, or a completely off the wall wardrobe that irks you, or her love of hunting doesn’t agree with your vegetarianism. Get over it, dear. She isn’t you. She isn’t trying to be you. Let her be herself.
- Believe it or not, she may become your friend. Not only will she get to know your kids, all of their personalities, their tantrums, and their struggles just as you do, but she will slowly get to know you too. You can vent to her or ask her opinions and she can respond from a place of true understanding.
- Variety is the spice of life. She might make foods that you don’t which means more interesting things for the kids to try! Maybe she was a soccer player in high school, and she can show them a thing or two on the field. She may have experiences to share with them, and the more they are exposed to, the more well rounded your kids will be for it.
- Your kids might now have a whole new family that will welcome them just as yours did when they came into the world. So what if she came into the picture a little later? They may find their new best friend in an inherited cousin, or a new grandma or grandpa that can teach them a thing or two about the good old days and slip them hard candies before dinner.
- They may have another sibling later! Yes, it gives you anxiety. Will they love the new baby more than my kids? Will they get pushed to the back burner? Maybe for the first year, girl. Don’t you remember what it’s like to have a newborn? I feel like I was blacked out from sleep deprivation for 12 months straight. If this becomes your reality, bake them a casserole, smell those baby smells, and even consider being a good example (and human being) by offering to babysit. Your ex is your kids’ father, forever. Any kids he has from here on out are your kids’ family too- so jump on board. You’re only going to exclude yourself from smiles and good memories by being jealous, judgemental, or having a bad attitude about it.
I had a stepmom growing up, and if you’re reading this Christy- I AM SO SORRY. Kids are not always comfortable or accepting of their stepparent. I felt like I was betraying my mom by even being in her presence. I did not understand the dynamics of adulthood, marriage, maintaining sanity around children, and having a job when I was busy shooting her dirty looks for 15 or so years.
She always went above and beyond to include me. She bought be school clothes. She took me to fancy salons to get my hair cut and colored. They planned family vacations around my visits. I was the only one of four kids in the house that was not birthed by her, and she always looked out for me, even though I was a complete and total brat to her 110% of the time. Thank you for your patience Christy, because my dad probably would have fed us Spam and eggs with a full blast Alice in Chains accompaniment for breakfast daily if not for you. You two were yin and yang as far as I could tell.
If you never had a stepparent, I hope that this serves as a comforting example to you. She is the real MVP. She is not perfect, she is human, and she has struggled. She did not have a guidebook to parenting- let alone stepparenting. Cheers to stepmoms. Appreciate them for all they do for their kids and for you.
Savanna is a divorced mother of two working in juvenile detention. She graduated from Oakland University with a Bachelors degree in criminal justice. When she isn’t desperately seeking naps, she likes to hang out with her Jack Russell, Harvey. You can find her on Facebook.